engagement ringIt’s true, I’m engaged. No, not that kind of engaged. I’m virtually engaged – listening to conversations and building relationships online.

As with other networking platforms, I use Twitter primarily for business purposes. Still, as we all know, even when we network and use social media for business, we don’t talk about business 100% of the time, right? (Cue: This is where you knowingly nod your head in agreement. If this is news to you, please stop and read this immediately; it’s for your own good.)

Along the way, I’ve met so many fabulous people. Many have become clients, partners and friends. Much about connecting on Twitter is serendipitous, if we are open to it. There certainly are many people I’ve come to know through traditional, strategic means. I truly cherish each connection and am honored to “hang out” with them every day.

Aside from the strategic alliances, I encourage you to be open to the unknown. Here are just four of my favorite Twitter stories of how I “accidentally” connected with someone new, all with a happy ending and a bright future.

Watching: Ships Passing in the Night ( Jim Connolly)

Over a year ago, I often saw this guy start tweeting just before I went to sleep and talk about ending his day just as I was getting going in the morning. I watched this for awhile and saw that he was in England, which explained the time difference. I began replying to his tweets at both ends of the day and, from there, we struck up quite a wonderful conversation.? Jim is a super-smart marketing mastermind and is also the brains behind The Tech News Blog and The Ideas Blog. Over the past year, we’ve become fantastic friends. He is always there whenever I need a friendly ear. To top it all off, he is hilarious and keeps me in stitches.

Connecting: Networking in the Carpool Lane ( Cathryn Hrudicka)

When I decided to think about considering the possibility of perhaps attending my first TweetUp (note the conviction), I dutifully followed the event hashtag to get a sense of who would be there and what to expect. I am terribly introverted and, while I did very much want to give this a try, I had no difficulty in coming up with reasons not to go.

As I scanned the tweets, I saw one from a woman who shared that she’d be interested in going if she could get a ride with someone. I looked at her Twitter page, quickly recognized that she was bright and someone who placed a high priority on engaging with others.? I replied and, long story short, we managed to meet and ride to and from the TweetUp together. What a fabulous find Cathryn is! She has a wealth of knowledge about technology, social media, the performing and visual arts, non-profits and philanthropy. Who wouldn’t want to know her?

Listening: I Beg to Differ? (Tony Uphoff)

Are you “listening” to conversations on Twitter? Hands down, one of the most powerful features of Twitter is the ability to “eavesdrop” by searching for tweets using keywords or phrases of interest to you.

As part of my work helping people understand and start using social media, I do quite a bit of work with LinkedIn. I’m a huge advocate of the networking power of the site, though people are often unsure as to how to best leverage its features. I often have a search running on Twitter for people talking about LinkedIn and frequently offer assistance by answering their questions. One day, I noticed a tweet regarding the value of recommendations on LinkedIn. I replied and it immediately became apparent that the person tweeting and I had strong – and opposing – opinions on the topic.

Anytime I have the opportunity to connect with someone intelligent who is able to articulate a differing perspective is a huge learning opportunity for me; and this conversation was no different. Since these first tweets, I’ve come to know Tony as a savvy business leader (he’s the CEO of TechWeb) with keen insight into all things tech and media related (he blogs at Uphoff On Media). He is also one of the warmest, most genuine people I’ve been privileged to meet.

Meeting: Oh No, You Didn’t (Itamar Kestenbaum)

In addition to useful content, conferences provide wonderful networking opportunities. At BlogWorld in Las Vegas recently, I took every opportunity to introduce myself to someone new. One day at lunch, I plopped myself down next to someone I hadn’t yet met.

Itamar took one look at me and said, “I know you. You unfollowed me!” Yikes! Where the heck can a conversation go from there? Fortunately, we’re both very easy-going and had a good laugh about it.? We talked about the fact that I am an aggressive unfollower, especially when I receive automated DMs (direct messages). Itamar was not alone in initially thinking that setting up automated DMs was a good idea after seeing others doing it, however it is a big Twitter etiquette no-no!

Itamar, who blogs at Itamar Kenstenbaum, and I have since kept in touch. We both are huge social media fans and discover interesting bits of news in each other’s Twitter stream.

Each one of these stories is slightly off-of-center when it comes to how people usually (to the extent that anything is “usual” on Twitter) connect on Twitter. However we connect on Twitter and on other social networking sites, it’s all about engagement.

I’m engaged. Are you? Please share your stories of “accidental” connections.

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